- 09 Sep 19
Amadjar, the ninth album from Tuareg legends, was recorded in the deserts of North Africa.
Recorded in a large tent in the desert near Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, to an audience made up primarily of scorpions, via a mobile studio in an old camper van, Tinariwen’s ninth album is probably the closest you will get to capturing the sound of the Tuareg collective live. No headphones, no special effects, just these cracking musicians playing live, along with Mauritanian musician and singer, Noura Mint Seymali, and her guitarist husband, Jeiche Ould Chigaly.
Once it was recorded, a host of western musicians added bits, including some suitably gorgeous violin from Bad Seed and Dirty Three band leader, Warren Ellis; guitar by Cass McCombs and Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))); and mandolin and charango courtesy of Micah Nelson, the American musician/actor and son of Willie.
For the most part, however, the western influence blends subtly into the background, and this sounds like a bunch of old friends sitting around a campfire, playing and singing together. The sense of inclusiveness is evident, even to those like myself who don’t speak Tuareg – they could be singing their shopping lists for all I know. Sometimes though, you don’t need words to understand the feelings behind the music; from the vocal pyrotechnics of Sigur Ros to the lyric-less beauty of Martin Hayes in full flight, you know when you’re in the presence of musical greatness, and that feeling shines throughout Amadjar.
Highlights include the beautiful ‘Taqkal Tarha’, particularly the interplay between the male and female vocals; the hypnotic fugue of ‘Wartilla’; and the call and response of the catchy and choral ‘Kel Tinawen’, complete with high pitched background yodelling. ‘Amalouna’ starts with just a voice – and what a voice it is, a deep rumble from the gut – before the music gradually kicks in, morphing into a mid-paced hypnotic chant.
As albums go, it doesn’t get much more live than this: you can even hear snatches of conversation in between the songs, as these stunning musicians weave their unique brand of desert magic. You could call it the fillet of Tinariwen.